Curtis Mayfield

Keep on Keepin' On

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The Big 'Fro label did a valuable if unauthorized service to soul collectors by making available a good amount of unreleased vintage material by soul stars, an area that has received relatively little attention from bootleggers. This CD compiles live, radio, and television performances -- as well as studio outtakes of "Freddie's Dead" and "Eddie You Should Know Better" from 1972, although no details other than the year of recording are supplied for those -- from what was arguably Curtis Mayfield's greatest period of a distinguished career. All of the tracks hail from 1972-1974, a point at which the Superfly soundtrack had vaulted him to superstardom. The sound is good -- in fact, sometimes it's release quality, though some of the concert material is a little below that standard -- and the performances excellent, although they don't hugely deviate from the familiar studio versions. In addition to renditions of a few Superfly highlights ("Pusherman" and two versions apiece of "Superfly," "Freddie's Dead," and "Give Me Your Love"), there are also a few of the better non-Superfly songs from Mayfield's most socially conscious period, including "Keep On Keepin' On," "We Got to Have Peace," "Stone Junkie," and "We People Who Are Darker Than Blue." If nothing else, it offers further proof of Mayfield's mastery of the soul-rock wah-wah guitar, as he uses the effects with as much assurance live as he did in the studio. Although 18 tracks are listed, that's a little deceptive; five of the "cuts" are actually excerpts of interviews with Mayfield, from undocumented sources.